August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week. All week long, our contributors will be sharing their stories, encouragement, trials, and helpful tips for nursing moms.
When our baby was born I thought I knew all there was to know about breastfeeding as a new Dad. What can be easier than pulling your shirt up and letting the baby go to town for 15 minutes or so several times a day? I was also aware of the different health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child. I was supportive of my wife’s decision to breastfeed without any actual knowledge of what that would entail. I quickly learned that breastfeeding was a lot more difficult than I had imagined and we ran into problems that I didn’t expect. Luckily, I’ve compiled a few tips and hints for the new fathers out there so that you can have a head start on what to expect.
- Breastfeeding could be very painful for a new mom. Don’t make the mistake of belittling the amount of pain she could be feeling. After a few days of nursing, my wife was in a world of pain. She would cringe and tense up each time our daughter latched on and almost always cry through her nursing sessions. I didn’t know how she was feeling so the best thing I could do was let her cry and aso what I could do to help.
- Know when to ask for outside assistance. Our daughter was born on Christmas Eve and no lactation consultants were available at the hospital during the holiday. That meant that we got off to a bad start and the baby was latching on wrong. After seeing my wife in so much pain and despair, I encouraged her to reach out to a lactation consultant. The LC came to our house, showed us the correct way to hold the baby, and how to get her to latch on correctly. That was a turning point in our breastfeeding experience and things only got better from there.
- Breastfeeding means immobility for the duration. That means you’re on call for getting water, snacks, the iPad, you name it. With this, it helps to pick up some of the other chores you might not normally do around the house and reanalyze your division of labor.
- Even more importantly, breastfeeding is a team sport the first several weeks, or even months. The new mom will find it helpful for you to be there and be available to adjust the baby, hold the baby’s neck, standby with a blanket, or just provide some company. You can learn together and before long she will be a pro and won’t need as much assistance.
- The feeding continues throughout the night, be careful not to wake up in the morning and say, “Oh, wow! The baby slept through the night!” Spoiler alert! No, the baby didn’t. Either your wife didn’t wake you or you were in too deep of a sleep to hear anything. It also helps to pretend you’re sleepy too, nothing will make her more mad than a well rested husband!
- A few days after the baby is born, your wife’s milk will come in and her breasts will be engorged. Ignore every male instinct that is telling you to touch them. Do not touch! My wife was in so much pain and my attempts at copping a feel were met with a quick slap to the hand. It’s depressing, I know, but two of your favorite tracks of land have been time shared to your newborn child. You won’t even have visitation for the first few months, at least.
- There may be times when she feels like she wants to quit. Show her that you are very supportive and let her make the decision that is best for her and the baby.
It may take a couple of months but eventually your new, bigger family will get into the swing of things. The best teacher is always experience. The important thing is to not be afraid to give it a go. When reading up on breastfeeding before the baby was born, I thought it was a no brainer on paper when in actuality the application can be very difficult. Having seen my wife go through her experience as a new mom learning how to nurse, I can absolutely respect those who chose not to go through it. It takes dedication and support from both the mother and the father (a cooperative kid helps too).
What would you add to the list?
Don Mills is the husband of Brigid, the owner of Charleston Moms Blog, and an officer in the U.S. Navy. When he’s not spending time with his wife and their toddler, he can be found doing home improvement projects, tending to his vegetable garden, or brewing cider.